Surgery is a procedure to remove cancer from the body or repair a part of the body affected by cancer. It’s sometimes called an operation or surgical resection, and is performed by a surgeon.
Many cancers that are found early can be removed with surgery, and this may be the only treatment needed. However, not all cancers can be removed surgically. Doctors often follow medical standards called clinical practice guidelines, which outline the best available treatments for particular cancers. For some cancers, surgery is recommended as the most effective approach, either on its own or in combination with other treatments.
In other cancers, non-surgical treatments have been proven more effective. Generally, surgery is not recommended if you are unwell or if the cancer has spread to many places in the body.
Learn more about:
- Common questions about surgery
- Your health care team
- Making treatment decisions
- Common types of surgery
- Planning and preparation
- The day of the surgery
- Recovery after surgery
- Looking after yourself
- Caring for someone having surgery
- Life after treatment
- Questions for your doctor
- Cancer stories
When my mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer, the medical team recommended she have a right hemicolectomy to remove the affected parts of her bowel.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Prof Andrew Spillane, Surgical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute of Australia, and Professor of Surgical Oncology, The University of Sydney Northern Clinical School, NSW; Lynne Hendrick, Consumer; Judy Holland, Physiotherapist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Kara Hutchinson, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Declan Murphy, Urologist and Director of Genitourinary Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof Stephan Schug, Director of Pain Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, and Chair of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, The University of Western Australia Medical School, WA; Dr Emma Secomb, Specialist Surgeon, Hinterland Surgical Centre, QLD. We would like to thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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